Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Uberizing of Parenting!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/06/where-boys-are-ubers/Nh1j0q4WnZgXCZeFltYdcP/story.html

Read and then we'll talk!

  DO NOT give your teen an UBER account. I know on face value it sounds like a sensible idea. How great that your teen will have a safe mode of transportation when they or their friends are otherwise compromised. YOU ARE THEIR SAFE RIDE!!!! When your teen chooses UBER over you, you have ceded complete control for their safety. They can now freely move from party to party, continuing to drink without fear of consequence. And if they are going to houses with no supervision and on to a sleep over and no responsible parent driving them, or awake when they get there, how will anyone ever know if they are close to being passed out!

A parent called me last spring about her 15 year old daughter who had been at a sleepover, a home this parent felt completely comfortable with. This mom had a sister who lived on another coast and time zone who was up early doing an instragram catch-up with her morning coffee. Low and behold she is seeing a live instagram feed of her niece at 3:00 AM in an UBER with her sleepover buddies coming back from an all-night diner run!! Sleepover parents none the wiser!!! She called her sister later in the morning and said hey, I saw Brunhilda at 3 AM in an UBER, was she on her way home from a prom or something?

No there was no prom!! Just a bunch of 15 year old girls who at 3 AM were STARVING. Having an UBER account at their disposal, why not head out for some chow!!! This is scary on so many levels. Immature kids out at 3 AM with a strange UBER driver, out at an all night diner with who knows who, and thinking the whole thing is HYSTERICAL!!! Out goes any judgement they might have had! UBER accounts are for you, and if there is a special occasion you are unable to pick your kid up, you order the UBER from your phone and make sure all is safe. THAT IS YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have heard from a number of parents that some teens have used their UBER account as a money maker. A teen will offer to use/share their UBER account for friends to go hither and yon and collect an agreed upon sum of cash for that privilege. This means the UBER account holder is walking around with a wad of cash having double dipped their parents generosity of an UBER/LYFT account . They are smart little buggers!!!

Another tactic is that one kid has an UBER account, and transports he/she and their friends everywhere. You may love this because your teen never asks you for a ride through the unbelievable generosity of another kid's parents. Oh the calls I have received from parents who have ended up with UBER sized UBER bills.

Or another parent whose daughter didn't feel like walking the mile home from school and regularly called an uber to take her home. LAZY!!!!

I get UBERS/LYFTS are wonderful new conveniences, and in a pinch they can be a a savior. But again I emphasize that checking in with you, being picked up and delivered by you, are important ways of staying in touch with your teen. Maybe they don't talk in the car  most days, but there may be that one day, that bad day, when having mom or dad in the car opens them up for a good old fashion "car talk." They may be few and far between, but that is the point. You want to be available and there when they happen. Driving, car-pooling, the bain of most parents. But truly, the relationships I formed both with my daughter and her friends by being the driving mom(all now 35) was priceless. They are now among the wonderful group of women I call my friends, including my daughter!!  Time with your children and their friends can never never never be replaced!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hazing Is Deadly: Another 18 Year Old Child Is Dead

I woke up this morning to the news story about 10 Louisiana State University Students who were arrested after a fraternity hazing incident they were involved in. Like the Penn State Student Timothy Piazza who died from an alcohol overdose during a hazing incident, so did Maxwell Gruver an 18 year old Freshman at LSU. The stories are eerily similar. You can read the link below for Maxwell's story. I am saddened and distraught, that these LSU students learned nothing from the Penn State incident that occurred only last spring. Where is the education of college students, high school students, middle school students on the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I have copied the blog I wrote about the Penn State tragedy and below is the link to the LSU story. Please, I am begging you, read these articles with your teens, and your college students. Talk to them about drinking games and how they can become deadly! Then go over this blog post with them about the science of alcohol and how it works in the body. This is information your teen should be able to recite  like the alphabet. This is never a one and done kind of conversation. Repetition, repetition, repetition, that is how we learn. Please, your teens need to be taught!!
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/us/lsu-hazing-arrests.html?_r=0

Spring 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/penn-state-fraternity-death-timothy-piazza.html

I am sure that most of you are aware of the recent death of  Timothy Piazza, a Penn State student who was left for dead by his fraternity brothers during a hazing ceremony that included copious amount of alcohol. I am sure that the 18 boys who were charged with manslaughter are basically good kids. I'm not being sarcastic here, these are not "bad boys." These are kids who when faced with saving a life vs getting in trouble for hazing and drinking, they chose the second, hoping against hope that their "brother" would be fine. This is the curse of teen magical thinking. The term is called Personal Fable, coined by psychologist David Elkind. Many teens feel that they are invincible and special. This corresponds with the emotional part of the brain that encourages them to act before they think. You know the emotional brain VS the thinking brain. That's why these boys just left their friend to die, probably thinking, oh he'll be fine!!!.

This is an important story to share with your teen. Below is a link to a New York Times article that describes this horrible event. You need to read it out loud with your teen, you need to talk about it, and without judgement let them know that "you get that sometimes when kids drink and someone passes out or falls, the inclination is to run without calling someone to get this kid some help, worrying that they'll get in trouble themselves." Talk about these Penn State boys, and how they are wishing now that they had just called 911 when they first noticed that Timothy was so out of it he fell down the stairs! Looking back, helping a friend to safety, and dealing with that uncomfortable call to a parent, is a whole lot better than feeling the guilt that a death could have been prevented by a simple phone call, and now a potential jail sentence.

 It is spring, and soon summer, when outdoor partying is in high gear. Please please please talk about this story with your teen. Below is all the information kids should know and understand if and when they go out drinking with their friends.

The Information


  • It is considered binge drinking when a male drinks 5 shots in a two hour period and a female drinks 4 shots. Consider 1 1/2 -2 ounces of alcohol a drink. Many kids use water bottles as a vodka carrier. Show your teen what this amount of alcohol looks like using a typical water bottle. Most kids drink hard and fast, thinking "oh I don't feel anything yet, I' need to drink more. Kids can easily down this amount of alcohol in under 2 hours. Remember they are not enjoying a relaxing cocktail, they are drinking to get wasted.

  • Here is what happens to the body with this amount of alcohol:
  1. Alcohol depresses the frontal cortex of the brain, or the thinking brain, making people less inhibited (which is a definite goal for teens). This impacts the ability to make decisions, and affects all senses, making it difficult to make "sense" of what is going on to you and around you.


     2. Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you pee...a lot. And if you are not counteracting this with drinking water, brain damage,  and passing out can result.


     3. Alcohol decreases breathing by affecting the part of the nervous system that controls breathing. This causes death.

     4. Alcohol lowers blood sugar and can cause seizures.


     5. Alcohol affects the part of the brain, the cerebellum, that controls balance, and motor coordination. Hence the term, falling down drunk. This can cause terrible injury. If a party is interrupted by the police or watchful parents, you can often see teens running from the scene who are completely compromised in their movements and can fall and really hurt themselves.

    6. Alcohol irritates the stomach which causes vomiting. Because of the alcohol, the normal gag reflex is disabled, and people can choke on their own vomit, aspirating into their lungs which is life threatening.

OK here's what they can do to help themselves stay safe or keep a friend safe who is drunk!

1. The obvious here is to call for help. Talk to your teen seriously about how it would feel to them to know that "If only" I had helped my friend, he/she would now be OK. Stress that NO ONE will be mad at them for potentially saving their friends life.

2. EAT!!!! Make sure your teen understands that having food in their body could save their life. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Many teens are drinking on empty stomachs, and do not eat when they are out.

3. Drink water and space out the drinking.

4. If a friend is obviously drunk, tell them to keep them in a sitting position, and give them water until help comes. If they are passed out, make sure they are lying on their side.

5. Check the friends breathing, is it regular and strong, or weak.

6. Keep them warm. Alcohol poisoning causes body temperature to drop. Remember, many kids party outside!.

I know this is some scary s**t!! And this feels like a mixed message, which it is. On the one hand you are saying, no drinking!!!! and on the other, here's what I want you to know. In no way are you giving them permission, but you are realistically trying to keep them safe. You love them, and you would be devastated if anything ever happened to them. Remember, this may have already happened to your teen or a friend of theirs, and you just don't know about it. Remember that teens are highly motivated to keep you out of their life especially when they know they are doing something you don't want them to do. This is just about safety...pure and simple

Why not share this post on Facebook or twitter, your friends will thank you!
Contact me for individual parent coaching, by phone or in person. Invite me to your school, business or community group for one of my 2 hour seminars.. Go to joanigeltman.com for more information











Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Giving Comfort In Scary Times

I don't know about you, but it seems every day brings some new terrifying event; hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, political decisions that affect the very way we live our lives. Sometimes it just feels like too much. Not to mention our own life crises. At least we as adults have years of life living as adults, so that we have a long term perspective on how to cope. Your teens do not have the benefit of experience. They haven't lived long enough to really accumulate the understanding that bad things often have a way of resolving, or that you know at least your feelings do.

Have you ever been in the midst of a really stressful situation that you know has no easy solution, and you call your best friend/mother/father/husband/wife knowing that just hearing their voice will make you feel better. Turns out that in fact a calming voice actually effects your body's hormonal stress responses in a positive way. In a recent study of teens, scientists wanted to see which form of communication with moms (sorry dads you were left out of this study) would help their teen feel better. After having exposed teens to a stressful situation, each teen was exposed to a different form of communication support from their moms; interaction in person, interaction over the phone, interaction over the computer/texts, or no interaction at all. Girls who experienced in person, or over the phone communication, in other words, an actual human voice showed a marked reduction in stress hormones. Those whose moms e-mailed, or sent texts showed stress hormone levels that were just as high as if the teens had had no interaction at all.

Why does this matter, because there is no substitution for human interaction. Texting, and e-mailing are good for sharing information, but when it comes to really impacting someone's life, you actually have to say something. Often times parents will tell me that most of their communication is coming in the form of texting to their kids, even when they are in the same house! Fearful of simple conversations turning into arguments, parents are resorting to  R U OK sent as a text.

So when you sense that your teen is feeling (there is just no substitute for parent intuition) is stressed by situations and expectations both socially and academically, you can safely assume your teen will need to hear your voice. They don't need you to solve their problems, they just need you to know that they have them. If they seem a little sad, lost, and anxious rather than asking "what's wrong?", maybe just a hug and a "you seem a little overwhelmed, sad, just want to say I love you." That calm and loving voice can go a long way to make them feel just a little better. The science says so!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My Kid Got Drunk And Called Me, Now What Do I Do?

A parent called me recently for some help with this very good question. Like a good dooby, this parent followed all the advice given by parenting experts like me, "let your teen know that while you disapprove and don't want him/her to drink, you absolutely want them to call you when they are so you can pick them up, no questions asked, and get them home safely. Ok, so this is what this parent did, but now this teen has walked in the house seemingly with a free pass to drink, and have a "car service" pick him/her up to boot!  Isn't this a mixed message, you might ask?

It absolutely is. Drinking/drugs and adolescence is not a black and white issue. If you say, "you are not allowed to drink!" Your teen will go underground, drink early in the evening, sleep over friends houses, chew tons of gum, or master the art of acting normal, or maybe not drink. You can always hope. And by the way, not all kids drink, and some kids will actually follow that rule. But honestly, if your teen is not a drinker, you would know, and wouldn't have to put that rule into place anyway. Many teens, thankfully do not want to drink. But for the many that do, you want them to be safe. The devil you know is better than the one you don't.

So back to the question. Now you have proof that your teen drinks, cause they asked you to come get them. But they don't exactly get off scott free. You have promised that there would be no direct consequences, ie grounding type punishment, but you still have the freedom to deal with it. You might have the following conversation: " You made a good decision last night, and for that I am really grateful. Obviously I am unhappy and disappointed that you drank, especially that you drank and were so compromised. You need to help me understand how that happened. And how in the future you can guarentee your safety. I get that the kids you hang out with like to party. That scares the sh** out of us. The fact is that you were sober enough at least to know not to drive and called us, but some other time you might not be so together."

And here is the best you can do the next time and every time thereafter they go out by saying: "Unless you can agree to stay sober tonight, we don't feel comfortable with you taking the car, or be driven by a friend. We will be happy to pick you up wherever at whatever time we agree on. Having the car or being in the car with friends gives you freedom, but freedom and alcohol and drugs just don't go together. We love you and want you to be safe." 

That is really the bottom line. I wish I could give you a magic answer that doesn't sound like doubletalk. Forbidding something you have no control over does no good. Punishing them until the cows come home, rarely has the long term affect you are looking for. Taking away the car or making yourself be a chauffeur may provide them with enough discomfort to not make drinking the priority of the evening. You will have to be the judge of whether your teen is getting trashed every weekend, in which case there is much more going on than just partying with friends. This kid has a problem that needs to be addressed in a serious way. If your teen is more in the normal range of a few beers or drinks but seems to have control, finding strategies that keep them safe is the goal.

There are no easy answers. Just keep the communication going!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Puberty Is A Bitch!!

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/girl-fakes-getting-her-period-and-pays-price-hilarious-new-ad-hello-flo-158405

If you haven't already seen this viral video, stop reading right now and watch it!!! God it's funny!! And these days, I'll take my laughs where I can get them. Watch it again, and then, watch it again with your daughter. Great for ages 10 and up! Girls get their periods early these days. Don't you be unprepared, and don't let your daughter be unprepared. Have a good laugh! And don't expect that the flood gates will open and your teen will be so thankful to you for understanding!!!! Probably she'll cover her eyes, turn beat red with embarrassment, and run for her room. And let her. It just might take some time and distance from it to be able to talk about it. But she will if you will. Who knows, maybe she will want to talk right then, but don't be offended, worried or otherwise anxious that you did the wrong thing if she doesn't. Sometime, maybe later in the day, in the car, on an errand, you might say: "oh my god, just had a visual of bobbing for ovaries!!! That was such a crazy video, what did you think was the funniest?" Get a good laugh going, and then maybe share your own puberty story. Oh yes, we all have a story. I hadn't thought of mine literally until I watched this video. And it happened, I am embarrassed to say....50 years ago. But honestly, it feels like it happened yesterday...seriously.

So I was at my first sleep over camp experience, I was going into 5th grade. I hated it! Towards the end of the torturous 8 weeks, the head counselor Rayna (and yes that is her real name,and though sometimes I can't remember my husband's name, her name was totally avail in my unconscious.) So Rayna takes me aside one day, and with her arm around me says: You know Joani, when you get home from camp I think you should talk to your mother about buying you a training bra. Your breasts are starting to develop and they are showing through your tee shirts!" I....WAS......MORTIFIED. Breasts! Don't talk to me about that! And maybe she said something to my mom, because as soon as I got home from camp, off to the bra department we went, for my little stretch training bra. Which of course I refused to wear because NO ONE ELSE had one.

And that right there is the theme of puberty. Whether you are a girl like me who got those cute little breast buds before anyone else, or like the girl in the video that was the last to get her period, or the boy who is called the "jolly green giant" in fifth grade because he towers over all his peers, all young teens have their "lightening rod." The change that is or is not happening and that they think everyone around them notices and cares about. That is the teen brain for you. That new sense of everybody is looking at me, and this stupid body of  mine. It is torture!

So use this video to acknowledge how hard this all is to have a body you can't control and you can't predict. Don't minimize with a "don't worry it will all turn out OK." cause honestly maybe it won't. MY boobs just continued to grow out of control. My tiny boob envy still haunts me today as I watch those with tiny boobs wear beautiful strapless dresses, or carefree tiny tee shirts. Not me, not ever! Be in their moment with them, and a "I get how hard this is to have your body do things you don't like." Some days will feel worst than others, and the good news is that some days you won't think about it at all!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Parenting On Demand: Texting Not Talking

Read and then we'll talk!!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2017/09/21/the-texts-are-coming-from-inside-house/a4Vaaol7RS7YCnlBSKOn9N/story.html

Does this ring true for you? Does your teen text from the comfort and serenity of their bedroom sanctuary for concierge and room service? Maybe for you it isn't a house issue, maybe your teen texts you multiple times a day with silly questions, demands for rides, food, CVS runs, and permission to go, buy or do.  I have had many many parents report that their teens text them 30-40 times a day. Often these are working parents with demanding jobs, fielding requests from their kids that absolutely do not need immediate attention. And every time the beast gets fed with immediate gratification, the requests get even more frequent and insistent. One parent reported to me that she was in an important meeting and her phone was shut off. When she turned it on after the meeting there were 20 texts from her kid, demanding, not with worry, but with entitlement: WHERE ARE YOU...PICK UP....I HAVE TO ASK YOU SOMETHING...PICK UP...PICK UP...PICK UP!!  Now times those annoying texts by 5. What a way to have to do your job and feel responsive to your kids!.

Kids are not intuitively demanding. Somewhere along the line, this behavior was reinforced probably by you. Here's the thing about technology, it sneaks up behind you and bites you on the ass!! It starts small with a cute text from your kid asking for something. It starts almost as a game. "Ooh, I bet I can text my mom/dad to get me something, and not even have to leave the comfort of my cushy bed,  and then voila, the desired snack, laundry, whatever magically appears. Mom/dad receive cute text, and with an awwww, that is so cute...run to complete the request. Rinse and repeat. That happens a few times, with a desirable outcome for your teen, and VOILA you have just conditioned your child to text and demand.

The good news is you can reverse the curse!!! And reverse you must. There is no substitution for face to face communication. Yes, texting can be a an easy shortcut conversation and it totally has a place in your world.And sometimes there has been a heated exchange and a text and emoji can calm the waters, and then perhaps open the door to a face to face.  But like everything in life there needs to be balance and accountability and responsibility. You time is valuable and should be respected. And your teen needs to learn how to delay gratification. It is really OK for them to walk three steps down to the kitchen to ask you something or to have to wait till the end of the school day to talk or text with you. If they are texting during the school day and you are returning their texts however silly and benign they are, you are distracting them from the work of school. If you set a limit and say, I will not be responding to your texts during the school day.....period!!! They will just have to deal.  And they will. You are teaching them a life skill!! This is not just about a demanding teen, this about setting a foundation for who your teen is to become as an adult. Life is not on-demand, unless that is what we as the adults in their lives are teaching them. Be strong, set limits on your availability. Literally do not answer a text that comes from within your 4 walls. Even by responding with a "if you want to talk to me, you have to come to me is reinforcing. Ignoring is the only way to go for in-home text demands! And if you want to demand something, than demand respect for your time and your life!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Keeping Your New and Soon To be Licensed Teen Driver Safe

A parent wrote to me recently requesting some help. This weekend her 16 1/2 yr old daughter will be taking the road test for her coveted drivers license, and barring any 3 point turn mistake (my downfall on my first test) her daughter will be a member of our driving community. The mom's main concern is how to enforce the current law here in Massachusetts, and I'm sure in many other states, that bars newly licensed teens from carting around their friends for the first 6 months of driving from the date of licensing, and how to feel confident that her daughter will always wear her seatbelt and make sure that all passengers (including illegal friends) wear their seatbelts.

Obviously, when you send your teen off in your car you are giving them a leap, a giant leap of faith. You have lectured, and lectured and lectured some more about all the rules, and they have yes'd you to death that they will follow them. But really, who knows? I hope I can help a little with these very realistic fears.

Lets tackle the seatbelt issue first. Observation will be your best evaluator of seat belt usage. Whenever your teen gets in the car, do you have to remind him/her to put on their seatbelt? If so, this is a sign they are not ready to drive alone. The first requirement is to see that your teen, un-reminded and automatically puts on their seatbelt as soon as they get into the car, either as the driver or as a passenger. Let them know that this most basic rule is a pre-requisite for taking out the family car. This includes paying attention to not only their seatbelt, but also any other passengers in the car including you and or their siblings that may be going along for the ride. To test their awareness of their passengers, every now and then, leave your buckle or your passenger's buckles undone. Has your teen done a quick glance around to all passengers before they start the car to assure seatbelt compliance. This is good practice. Let your pre-driving teen know that there is zero tolerance on this issue. And that until you sense that it is now second nature for them to buckle up as well being on top of their passenger's seatbelts, there will be no taking out the family car alone. This is an easy one, because either you have to keep reminding them or you don't, and if you don't than they are good to go!

Now, the real challenge, how to enforce the no-passenger rule. As your teen will tell you: "that's a stupid rule and nobody pays attention to it. Everybody drives with their friends in the car." Unfortunately they are right, not that the rule is stupid, but that all the kids do it. This is a powerful disincentive for your teen to follow the law. If a teen gets caught driving by the police, usually it's when they get a speeding ticket or have rolled through a stop sign or are out driving past your town's curfew, and have other kids illegally in their car, then they lose their license until they are 18. Unfortunately not enough teens get caught, and so most kids think the whole law thing is a joke.

First, do not give a mixed message on this by agreeing that it is a stupid law, even if you think it is. It is a law, and teens are into black and white thinking. Either you think it is fair and right or you think it is stupid too. So if you, in any way, give voice to your own ambivalence in front of your teen, you have lost this war. Their defense will ALWAYS be "well my parents said it was OK!" What you can do is use an 'I get it" moment. saying: " I get you think this rule is stupid, and that all your friends just ignore it. I get your friends will want rides when you have the car. You will want to give them rides and I get it will be hard for you to say no. We need to come up with a plan so that when this happens, which will probably be every time you have the car, you can have something to say that discourages everyone from wanting to ride with you. This will be something that you alone are responsible for, and we get it will be really hard, but new drivers are inexperienced, and vulnerable to distraction, and we want you to be safe. You also need to know that if you are caught by the police, or by us, or by one of our friends who we have alerted to let us know if they see you driving with friends in the car, you will lose your driving privilege until age 17 when you can carry passengers. So if you choose to allow kids in the car, you are risking your ability to drive at all. Now lets come up with a plan."

At this point, you can come up with some suggestions of things they might say to their friends when put in this position for giving rides." I can't my parents are like Nazi's and they are checking my mileage. All they do is figure out the mileage where I say I am going, and if the mileage doesn't match up they are not letting me drive. They are assholes, but I don't want to lose my license, sorry, I just can't." You don't really have to do this, but it gives your teen a very important face-saving out. Basically you want together to concoct a story they can give to their friends, that will make you the bad guys, and give them the script for getting out of the situation. The truth is they probably will still take kids from time to time, but maybe less than if they had a plan to help them get out of it. Remember, that just saying to them: "you better not take any passengers" is not helpful, you have to acknowledge how hard it can be, and help them with a strategy!.

Also you do not want them talking, dialing, or texting on their phone ever in the car. This is life saving. This means YOU SHOULD NOT BE CALLING THEM WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MAY BE DRIVING. Instead give them the responsibility of having to call or text you before or after they start to drive. If they do not take this on as a serious responsibility of taking your car, it is very simple, they do not take the car...period! Let them know that you will be checking the texting times when they are in the car, let them know you have access to these online, and will make sure that they are not texting and driving. Be very very clear about this. This texting and driving should scare the SHIT out of you. You need to scare the SHIT out of them.

Six months to a year before they get their learner's permit, you should start a no-texting in the car policy. They need to start to feel what it is like to be in your car without texting. Behavior does not just change overnight because you said so. It takes practice!! When your teen is a passenger in your car and sitting in the front seat, no texting. If they are motivated to get their license then they will comply. If they aren't so motivated, they won't. And this is an easy one for you. No license until they prove to you in a consistent way that they can delay text, snap and any other social networking gratification!!

Driving is a right of passage. It is the best thing that could ever happen to a teen. I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but life with cellphones, and Itunes, and texting and tweeting makes the new driving teens a much more complicated activity. Take it one drive at a time! And by the way, don't forget to ask them to pick up milk on the way home!